Updated: 12/2/19 —
I’m not a pointer. Growing up, weren’t we constantly being told that pointing is rude? Instead, now with the fear of a merciless, pointer-punishing god inside me, I just say things like, “Look over there. No. Right. There. No, there. LOOK. RIGHT THERE. Ugh. Well, you missed it.” while my husband shouts, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.”
And there you have my time in Belize, a country bursting with stuff to aggressively verbally acknowledge.
Had I been a pointer, I’d most certainly have worn out my delts not to mention be destined for a swift descent into pointer purgatory. So much of Belize is shocking to first-time visitors–stuff that goes well beyond how delicious the food is, how accommodating the people are, and how serene the jungle is first thing in the morning. Well, first thing after the sunrise hunt of the howler monkeys, that is. Rawr!
But here, I’m talking about the deeper stuff. Not just the surreal hue of the turquoise ocean, but the stuff I can’t believe I saw/experienced/ate off a tree in the woods. We’re venturing into uncharted territory here in Belize and this statement has little to do with this being my first ever trip to Belize and more to do with the fact that I ATE BUGS. See? You’re shocked. Gimme more of that…
01 | HOW MANY BELIZE PUNS THE LOCALS USED
I know! Can you Belize it?
Puns are quite the popular occurrence in my world, maybe even more so than the ever fashionable pointing at things with the top of my head. And when I say “popular,” I really mean “the things most often pretended to not be heard by my husband.”
So imagine my delight upon touching down in a country that values cheesy wordplay at much as I value not getting as much hate mail as I surely deserve. Belize it or not, the majority of these eye-roll-inducing phrases came from the lips of locals: our jungle tour guides, our golf-cart taxi driver, our taxi cab taxi driver, our snorkeling guides! And not just in a kiss up to the tourist dropping that sweet American cash kinda way either–they actually get tickled and it’s adorable.
What I’ve deduced from my trip is this: Belizeans are very excited to be Belizeans. They love their tiny, gorgeous, albeit face-melting country and they love even more to laugh and smile. Maybe one day we can all be this happy-go-lucky. Don’t stop belize-ing!
02 | HOW DELICIOUS LIVE TERMITES ARE
Now just hear me out…
One night, two of our new friends told us about eating termites on their hike the day before. I like to think of myself as moderately adventurous but eating live bugs is the one thing I SWORE I would NEVER do. I told them I could NEVER eat a termite. What do you think has kept me from auditioning for Fear Factor all these years? (Besides the fact that it hasn’t aired since 2012) It’s because I know they’d make me eat a bug! And probably under water. On a speeding train.
But something happens when you’re on vacation. You do the things you SWORE you’d NEVER do. It’s the travel high–the carefree, grab life by the balls attitude you get when traveling abroad. Emails and projects and probably a baby shower you didn’t send a gift to are the farthest things from your mind–a mind solely focused on seizing the damn day.
On our hike through the jungle to the ATM Cave, I asked our guide what that giant bulge protruding from the tree was.
“That’s a termite nest.” And in one swift move he punched a hole in it with his water bottle, stuck a finger in, pulled it out covered in crawling termites, stuck his finger in his mouth and pulled it out clean. “Now you try!”
“Ok!” And in one swift move I stuck a finger in, pulled out a few live termites, stuck my finger in my mouth and pulled it out clean. My parents must be so proud.
Now I will answer some of the questions you undoubtedly have:
Did I chew it? No. It was more of a smushing with my tongue + swallow.
Could I feel it moving around in my mouth? No. I swallowed those sum’bitches before my brain could register the absolutely insane thing I was doing while travel-high.
What did it taste like? Carrots, I shit you not. One termite fills your mouth with the flavor of a thousand carrots. You have to taste it to believe it. We were told that depending on which tree the nest is on, termites will taste either like carrots or like mint. HEY–I DON’T THINK YOU CAN ASK FOR ANY BETTER THAN THAT.
⇢ I’ve since eaten bugs in Mexico too — what is happening to me!?
03 | I DIDN’T ENCOUNTER A SINGLE MOSQUITO
What do you do when you plan a trip to the Central American jungle during the proclaimed “wet season?” You stock up on DEET. Or whatever deet-free nonsense even the mosquitos themselves are plugging nowadays.
Though we were technically there during Belize’s “wet season,” it was very much the opposite. All we heard about was the drought. The drought. The damn drought. When we asked why there were no mosquitos IN THE JUNGLE, the answer was, “the drought.”
We had prepared to be eaten alive–during which, I can almost guarantee, I would taste either like turkey bacon or guacamole, depending on what couch I’m on. We had prepared ourselves to be covered in a consistent layer of slimy filth, smelling like a soccer mom during parents’ weekend at camp.
In short, I hate bug spray. But I also hate mosquitos. Belize, about that drought… sorry not sorry.
04 | THE BELIKIN RIPOFF
I see what you’ve done there Belikin. You had us thinking your beers were so cheap (I mean, they still kinda are). You had us believing we got such a great deal on that bucket (we still kinda did). You had us believing we should have been way more drunk than we were (well…).
It isn’t until you finish your first Belikin that you realize you’ve been duped. It sure looks like a regular bottle of beer. It feels like one, smells like one, is shaped like one, makes me agree to night hikes through the jungle like one.
The bottles of Belikin you will consume your weight in aren’t what they appear to be. They are the same size as a regular 12oz bottle of beer but the glass is thicker. It feels in your hand like a regular 12oz beer but the bottle is weighted. It’s priced the same as a 12oz bottle of beer but you’re only getting 9.6 ounces of beer. 9.6 OUNCES! Why did I even get out of bed this morning!? Oh yeah, because this is where you drink them:
05 | JUST HOW EASY IT IS TO FACE YOUR FEARS
Ah, yes. The travel-high makes another appearance as does the bun. At this point, the travel-high is little more than an adrenaline spike for people who have issues with bugs. I don’t, per se–consuming them the exception–but spiders are a whole ‘nother… can of worms? I literally spent 30 years in life and one year in therapy dealing with arachnophobia. Therapy! For spiders! THIS is why you get health insurance.
But when the guide on your night hike through the jungle lures a tarantula out of a burrow, tells you it’s definitely venomous, then asks if you want to hold it–YOU SAY YES. You’ll shake in your hiking boots that don’t at all go with your outfit, you’ll sweat
buckets trenches, you’ll sob a little, but you’re doing the thing you SWORE you’d NEVER do.
Just look at my face in that picture–I’m clearly having an OBE, some spider-loving witch from another galaxy having eagerly taken my place. For her, this was SO. AWESOME. It felt nothing like she thought it would, wasn’t terrifying in the least bit, and now she can watch the end of Home Alone without shielding her eyes.
By the way, therapy works. My therapist was the first person I sent this photo to… using my husband’s phone from deep in the Belizean jungle like it was a damn emergency.
Acrophobic? Claustrophobic? Galeophobic? Belize has a cure for you all. Do it while you’re travel-high or you’ll never do it at all.
06 | THE NONEXISTENT SENSE OF URGENCY REGARDING WILDFIRES
“What’s with all the wildfires everywhere?”
“Huh? Oh, those? The drought.”
I have no idea how wildfires start outta the clear blue sky but it has something to do with the drought. I also have no idea why NO ONE CARES ABOUT THIS. All the Belizeans we came into contact with where a wildfire was concerned possessed the same nonchalant attitude whilst I freaked out in the backseat of whatever vessel I was currently captive.
A few days in, my husband and I were biking up a mountain when we came upon a young wildfire that soon began engulfing the nearby trees. We raced back to our lodge to alert the staff that just down the road THE EARTH WAS AFLAME. “Ehh, yeah, someone told us already.” <resumes trimming the bushes>
We never once saw any effort being applied to putting these fires out but… I guess Belize is still there? I haven’t checked lately.
07 | JUST HOW MANY WAYS BELIZE CAN KEEP YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT
These sons of bitches.
I can’t say enough good things about our stay at Colinda Cabanas but a tin roof under an evil clan of coconut trees sure made for some interesting 3, 4, and 6 AM wide-awakenings. The Caribbean cousin of the apple tree from The Wizard of Oz goes bump in the night more often than Gandalf sleepwalking through a hobbit hole.
These sons of bitches.
Man, geckos are CU-UUTE but did y’all know they can SCREAM? I didn’t either until I heard what sounded like someone tickling an angry pig every night. Or like something traumatic was happening over in the diorama room of the Natural History Museum. Or more precisely, Herbology class at Hogwarts. Don’t believe me? Check out this video.
These sons of bitches.
Apologies for the crappy photo–there was a baby monkey present so there were most certainly tears in my eyes and a flutter in my heart. Or it was quite literally my eyelids melting off from the Central American summer heat.
These are howler monkeys–the Guinness world record holder for LOUDEST ANIMAL ON EARTH. They call the jungles of Belize home and they do so loud as all get out. They love to make their presence known and they do so around 4 AM, echoing across the river valley, teleporting you from your dreams to your worst Jurassic Park nightmare. Have a listen here.
08 | THE AIRPORTS
Well, that’s it. The Caye Caulker, Belize airport. The one in San Ignacio is even smaller. I think we are so used to massive international air terminals with their throngs of people and even thicker security protocols that we forget places like this can even exist. But hey, they ship FedEx!
Check out the sign for baggage claim (like, where else would it be?) and how the luggage is actually nowhere near it. And the rake for the dirt runway. Do you think they offer free (bike) parking?
09 | WATERMELON JUICE
I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t watermelon juice just… water?”
Well obviously not, smartass. My guess is they threw some watermelon into a blender and voila? I don’t really know. It tastes better than that. Maybe I’m just travel-high again. Maybe anything tastes like Heaven after you’ve eaten bugs.
10 | JUST HOW LITTLE YOUR APPEARANCE MEANS TO YOU NOW
If you’ve read my article on what to pack for Belize you already understand how vastly I underestimated this. It’s SO HOT in Belize. Your hair will never be down nor will it ever be fully dry. Neither will your clothes. You won’t wear any of the “cute outfits” you brought because… remember the wet one-piece bathing suit struggle of your childhood?
You won’t care that nothing matches because you just want to be cool for the love of GOD. You won’t care that you have to wear the same dress three days in a row because it’s the only thing that doesn’t scratch at the sunburn on your ass. You’ll ask yourself how you ever wore makeup in the first place? Was there ever a time when you weren’t dripping? Hey there, Mr. Drought… I think I can solve your problem.
11 | HOW LITTLE YOU CARE WHAT GOES INTO YOUR BODY
Everything to eat in Belize is fantastic. You won’t care about your “diet” or your beach body or your new year’s reso- ha, I can’t say that with a straight face. The only thing on your mind will be GIMME THE FRY JACKS! Fry jacks for breakfast, fry jacks for lunch, fry jacks for midnight snacks. You won’t care if your food comes from a street cart on a dusty road or out of a kitchen with a sign that says “Don’t feed the cat” because the street tacos and crispy fried chicken will be so worth the lack of governing health organization.
You won’t be thinking about pesticides or gluten or GMOs because, in Belize, all that stands for is “Gimme. More. O’dat.”
One of the best meals we had during our time in Belize was had while we were on our way out of it. Our hilarious, 90-year-old (that’s a guess) taxi driver, on the way to the Belize City airport, told us about this guy who makes the best burgers in Belize. He took us to the guy pictured above–set up on a street corner near the airport, where all the best restaurants are known for being located. He didn’t have any burgers at the time (because he was saving them all for a large order of 40+ burgers later in the day, as you’d expect from only the most well-established joints) but cooked us some to-die-for BBQ chicken my husband is still trying to recreate at home. His last attempt ended with the grill catching on fire. Like, more than normal.Gimme. More. O’dat.
12 | THE BRAHMAN
Unless you head inland to the western side of Belize you might not see these: Brahman–that’s Latin for my humps my humps my humps, check it out.
Brahman are the biggest bulls I’ve ever seen. They’re the result of cross-breeding four types of cattle brought over from India with both Bebop and Rocksteady. They’re able to withstand extreme heat and, you guessed it, drought. Then he fills the tub up halfway and swallows it with his surfboard. Surfboard, surfboard. ⇠ See, ’cause it looks like he swallowed a surfboard? I hate Beyoncé.
This picture isn’t nearly as impressive as the real thing so unless you’ve seen a brahman up close you can just move on to #13. That’s “number” 13 for all my readers under 30.
13 | THE MUTUAL RESPECT THAT DEVELOPS BETWEEN YOU AND THE INSECTS IN YOUR ROOM
At home, you see a couple of ants in your house so what do you do? Smash them to bits of course then lay out traps to slowly but surely obliterate all of their kin. However, after spending even a little bit of time in the jungle, you’ll develop a sort of mutual understanding with the ants and other insects that visit your lodging.
Even in the top-notchiest of jungle resorts there will be ants but it won’t bother you. You’ll see them walking around in your room and you’ll say, “hi ant” and step over rather than on them. You know they’re just checking things out, minding their own business, with no desire to crawl into bed with you–unlike at home where you’re positive they’re looking for a warm sugary spot in your cabinets to invite all 12 million of their friends of family.
You won’t care when you see them in your bathroom or by the window or under the bed. At home, nothing lives. In Belize, we’re all pals. They don’t bother me–I don’t bother them. Besides, all they’ll do is walk around a bit, find nothing of interest then head back out into the jungle to be swiftly slurped up by the gecko that shares your nightstand.
14 | FISHING
Have you seen how they fish in Caye Caulker? I thought I’d accidentally stumbled upon Hobo Bass Masters but it turns out this method is quite common.
Instead of a fishing rod and reel, they use fishing line tied to a small stick or piece of driftwood. They bait it, whip the line as far out as they can using the lasso method of cowboy notoriety and yank it in, hand over hand. Has no one ever told them, “THERE’S A BETTER WAY BRO!” What if they catch something… big? Won’t the fishing line slice through their hands like a hot knife through a stick of butter? I have so many questions.
While chillin’ on Caye Caulker, my husband told the owner of our cabana that we wanted to do some fishing. Our host gladly put together some gear for us: a bucket and some fishing line wrapped around a small piece of wood. OK, well this is happening. We did catch… some more bait.
15 | HOW AMAZING SLEEPING OUTSIDE IS
My husband and I went out one night to admire the millions of stars viewable only in places like the middle of the jungle… and space. It was a cool night and the hammocks quite literally rocked us to sleep. It was so relaxing, so dream-like, and then you’re abruptly scared awake by the sounds of the T-Rex army across the valley looking for young goats or old scientists to eat.
Is this what camping is for? Why people voluntarily sleep in the woods with the bears and the Blair Witches? I have a fabulous deck at my house but I would never sleep outside on it–it’s exclusively used for grilling and to act as a landing pad for packages tossed up there by UPS. Besides, aren’t there bugs out there? And lurkers?
But in Belize, I care not; I’m travel-high and probably a little loopy from the ‘ladas. And I went on a jungle night hike; I know what hunts us. But it would take all the jaguars, all the tarantulas, kinkajous, howler monkeys, vipers and all those wild guinea pig things in the jungle to drag me out of that hammock. Or actually, just my husband mentioning a ghost one single time.
16 | THE BELIZEAN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION NORM
Americans have got to be the most spoiled members of the human race. Besides the pets of Americans, that is.
Here, we demand of our public transportation things like: hybrid technology, working AC/heat, handicap accessibility, USB outlets, the ability to accept credit cards for our $1.50 trips, and even, psshhh, WI-FI! In Belize? They require only two things: a gas pedal and a brake pedal. They certainly don’t have Wi-Fi. They don’t even have a Fi.
They do have plenty of Wi though–Why won’t that baby stop staring at me? Why is that woman’s boob out? Why is my hand tangled in this woman’s dreadlocks? Why am I on an old American school bus painted every color of the rainbow? Why must I leave the bus station for you to pick me up on the curb down the street? Why is no one concerned that the whole country IS ON FIRE?
But for what it’s worth–I survived. The two-hour bus ride was like $4 and none of the people I fell on, knocked over, accidentally felt up, sweat on, pretended not to see (boobs) were anything but understanding. I wasn’t robbed or–spoiler alert–murdered. It was 1,000°F inside the overstuffed bus that day made even hotter by all the wildfires making me only pretty sick that day instead of extremely sick.
Belizeans travel this way every single day and, I assume, think nothing of it. They don’t seem to mind that they can’t check their emails or charge their phones. Who really needs all that crap anyway? You’ve got wheels underfoot, gas in the tank and a guy who jumps on through the emergency exit to sell fresh guava. And you never know–maybe there’s a galaxy somewhere wondering how we survive without the use of unicorn-drawn cloud carriages and rainbow slides to get us where we need to go.
17 | HOW SKETCHY A PHARMACY LOOKS MATTERS NOT
Call me a tight ass but in America I’d be quick to second guess a barely standing pharmacy outhouse (complete with chickens and a drooling, one-eyed mutt) where they sell drugs by the pill and only accept non-sequential bills.
How can you be sure those pills even are what they’re said to be? Pills themselves don’t say “Ibuprofen 200mg, take once every 4 hours.” They say “UB40” or “SUM 41” or something else patently useless to anyone outside the realm of pop music.
Is this guy a licensed pharmacist? He’s wearing a blood-stained apron and has a collection of Homer Simpson figurines on the shelf behind the counter. I’m worried he’s been taking too many of his own “10,000 Maniacs” liquigels.
How bad does my head hurt… really?
“Oh wait, this isn’t America and I don’t need a prescription? Well then, what’re you waiting for–load me up! Some of those… and yeah some of those… can you even dye my eyes to match my gown? I’ll take some U-2s, some B-52s, and a handful of BLINK-182s.”
Patronizing a foreign pharmacy falls under the category of, not travel-high, but travel-desperation. Girl… don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. How you’ll be riding in the back of a (yeah it’s probably a legit) cab on a dirt road through the woods in a foreign country driven by a man with a facial scar mumbling something quietly (but firmly) into a cell phone and think, “Yup, this guy is going to murder me. Actually, I’ve given him such a perfect opportunity I will judge him if he doesn’t.”
You would NEVER put yourself in those positions back home but, abroad in a strange land, you know you HAVE NO CHOICE. What were you supposed to do? Live at the airport? All you can do is pray your life doesn’t become the plot of a “based on recent events” episode of SVU and squeeze that uncapped ink pen as tightly as you can; it’s your only hope.
When you’re abroad and you’ve got a raging headache, killer cramps, food poisoning, or an allergic reaction to a mysterious piece of fruit, you’ll take whatever the hell you can get, wherever the hell you can get it from. And the physical condition / questionable legitimacy of that “pharmacy” matters not.
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